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Brooklyn Decker on Her Acting Career: 'I'm Still Studying to Get Better'

Brooklyn Decker Magic Millions Race - P 2012
Matt Roberts/Getty Images

The former Sports Illustrated cover model stars in both Universal’s “Battleship” and Lionsgate’s “What to Expect When You’re Expecting,” but tells THR she still doesn’t feel like she’s completely made the transition into the acting world.

Brooklyn Decker may have already had a big career as a famous model, but she’s still finding the whirlwind travel involved with promoting two movies a bit daunting.

The model-turned-actress, who stars in both Universal’s Battleship and Lionsgate’s What to Expect When Your Expecting, has been traveling the world the past few months leading up to the release of both her films on May 18.

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“I constantly have to check my phone to see what time zone I’m in,” Decker, 25, tells The Hollywood Reporter. She adds that she’s gotten to see parts of the world she’s never been to before, such as Tokyo and Seoul.

Battleship opened overseas more than a month before its U.S. debut, which sent Decker around the world for premiere events. Directed by Peter Berg, Battleship also stars Taylor Kitsch, Rihanna and Liam Neeson, and follows a group of Navy officers and others living in Hawaii who come into contact with a threat from an alien force.

Decker says that a special highlight of the promotional travel was taking the film to navel bases in foreign countries. “It’s been really fun to play it for troops. That kind of makes it a little more meaningful,” she says.

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Decker’s character, Samantha Shane, is a daughter of a naval officer (Neeson) who works as a physical therapist. The role allowed Decker to spend some time with the Wounded Warriors Project. She traveled to medical hospitals in Pearl Harbor and San Antonio and worked with troops who came back injured from overseas. She calls the experience “one of the more profound parts of working on Battleship.”

“It was such a special experience for me,” she says. “Battleship is a big fun action movie, full of CGI and aliens and all that, but actually being able to do something that felt real was really special.”

And while the sci-fi action pic has plenty of thrilling combat and big battle scenes, the opening scene – which she calls the “chicken burrito scene” -- sticks out in Decker’s mind as one of her favorites because it’s funny. In it, Taylor Kitsch’s character Alex Hopper attempts to get the attention of Decker’s character. “You get to see our hero Taylor making a fool of himself for a girl,” she says. “It’s just a really funny way to open an action movie.”

Comedy seems to also be a talent of Decker’s, who stars as the much younger wife to Dennis Quaid’s character in What to Expect When You’re Expecting. Her character, Skyler, a bubbly Southern blonde, is one of the five women dealing with pregnancy in the comedy.

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Decker, who spent some in her youth in the South, says she grew up around women like Skyler, so it was easy to relate to that character. “I knew this girl, so when I went into the audition, I tapped into her,” she says. “She’s just fun and over the top and ridiculous. She’s really just kind of shameless in a way.”

In the film, which also stars Cameron Diaz, Jennifer Lopez, Matthew Morrison, Anna Kendrick and Elizabeth Banks, Decker’s character gets very pregnant, and so the thin 5’9” actress had to wear a prosthetic pregnant belly to play the role, a process that she says resulted in an automatic need to protect the fake baby inside of her.

“It was really bizarre because as soon as you strap that belly on, you start protecting your belly, you don’t want people to run into you and you start to waddle,” she says. “It’s funny seeing yourself waddle.”

Decker, who rose to fame as a model and Sports Illustrated cover girl, did her last modeling shoot in 2010, and has been focusing on acting ever since. With three big movie roles (2011’s Just Go With It being the first) under her belt now, Decker could feel like she’s finally part of the acting world, but she admits she still feels like a newbie.

“I’m still studying to get better. And it goes without saying that I have a lot of room for improvement. And that’s what I’m trying to do now,” she says.

She says she’d love to be part of a smaller or independent drama next, and admits that she has sometimes been treated differently because she was a model before. “Sometimes people are like, ‘Oh, is that that girl the model?’ But I think it’s opened doors because of my background.”

“I can’t bite the hand that fed me,” she adds. “Once people give me a chance they realize, ‘OK, she’s here to work.’ And I think that’s the biggest thing.”

Battleship and What to Expect When You’re Expecting both open in theaters on May 18.

Email: Rebecca.Ford@thr.com; Twitter: @Beccamford